WASHINGTON – Maryland employers on average are slapped with higher fines for accidents injuring men than they are for those hurting women, an analysis of more than two decades of government records revealed.
Businesses in Maryland were on average fined $1,377 when the victim of a workplace accident was a man, Capital News Service’s computer-assisted analysis of federal and state records showed.
Penalties averaged $705 for incidents injuring a woman, the analysis of records from November 1972 to May 1995 revealed.
Federal and state inspectors also determined that employers violated fewer safety standards when women were injured, the analysis showed.
Jo-Ann Orlinsky, administrator of the Maryland Occupational Safety and Health program, said she had no idea why fines against employers were higher when men were injured.
Robert Brown, a spokesman for the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, also said he does not know what may cause the difference.
MOSH or OSHA conduct inspections when major workplace accidents occur or when employees complain about unsafe conditions. The agencies also conduct routine spot checks.
Government workplaces can be cited for safety violations, but are not fined. Private companies can be fined up to $70,000 for each violation, officials said.
Of 3,477 workers injured in Maryland between 1972 and 1995, the records identified 2,199 as men and 227 as women. The gender of some injured workers was not recorded.
The gender difference in fines was apparent in most cases when penalties were grouped by occupation and type of accident.
For instance, employers were fined an average of $464 in the 39 cases when female machine operators were injured, while they were fined an average of $2,229 for the 150 accidents in which male machine operators were the victims.
A look at accidents involving white-collar workers and construction-trade employees showed similar results.
While the injuries of 16 female managers, pharmacists and teachers resulted in fines averaging $608, the fines averaged $1,508 for their male counterparts.
Four women were injured in construction-trade accidents, and none of their employers was fined. Companies were fined an average of $1,303 when men were injured in these jobs.
In the 47 cases in which women were “caught in or between” equipment, the penalties against their employers averaged $505. For the 381 men caught in equipment, the average fine was $1,696.
Seung-Kyung Kim, an assistant professor of women’s studies at the University of Maryland, said the findings might be explained by a prevailing attitude that women are not always equipped to do the work that they do.
“It’s a well-known fact that women earn only 70 cents when men earn $1 for the same type of work,” said Kim, who specializes in labor issues.
However, she said, thorough research would be needed to safely determine the reasons for the gender difference in penalties.
Sandra Tillett, executive director of the Occupational Health Foundation, which gives advice to labor unions on safety and health issues, said the findings point toward sexism. She said sexism is “pervasive in our society.”
Tillett said she would like to find out more about the data. “If there is [a bias], it needs to be corrected,” she said. Craig Lowry, the head of MOSH’s inspection unit, said he finds the sexism theory “interesting,” but said he does not know if there is a correlation between a victim’s gender and the amount of fines. – 30 –